Hornets and Dodgers have something in common
Los Angeles sports fans have a little dilemma. If they care about the immediate future of the Dodgers, the most reassuring development would be to see the New Orleans Hornets do well against the Lakers.
The Dodgers and Hornets are the unlikeliest of cousins, a flagship franchise of baseball linked to a struggling small-market team through the commonality of league control of their operations. Technically, Major League Baseball taking the operational reins of the Dodgers this week isn't quite as drastic as the NBA purchasing the Hornets from previous owner George Shinn in December. But the Dodgers can't look down their noses at anyone right now. Not after baseball commissioner Bud Selig deemed Frank McCourt unfit to run the team on his own.
If the Dodgers are slumming it with the Hornets now, the good news is the Hornets are showing they're capable of keeping up with the kings of the NBA. New Orleans split the first two games of its playoff series with the Lakers. So there is life after loss of independence.
"Nothing really changed," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. "I think our situation is a little different than L.A.'s. But for me nothing's really changed."
The league appointed Jac Sperling as team chairman and governor. Demps said he continued with business as usual.
"We walked in, we had a plan," Demps said. "Part of that plan was potential trades and salary."
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He felt acquiring power forward Carl Landry from Sacramento in exchange for guard Marcus Thornton fit the fiscal plan, even though the Hornets took on the prorated amount of a $750,000 difference in salary.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, technically a partial owner of the Hornets, didn't agree. He called it "absolutely, positively wrong" for the Hornets to take on additional money.
"We forgot to call him when we were making the decision," Demps joked.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson even put aside his long-running verbal feud with Cuban to share similar complaints.
"How is this happening?" Jackson said. "Where's the consensus? If New Orleans happens to win the championship, does everyone get a trophy in the NBA?"
Landry, an easygoing type, felt flattered to get so much attention. After all, no one would have complained if they thought Landry was no good.
"It definitely was a compliment just to hear my name come out of Phil Jackson's mouth, one of the greatest coaches to be a part of the game," Landry said. "And Mark Cuban as well, one of the greatest owners. It was a compliment, in a way."
Jackson probably has stronger feelings than ever about the trade. Landry has a more prominent role now, moving into the starting lineup after David West tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Landry scored 17 points in the Hornets' Game 1 victory and has played a large role in the Hornets' defense, which has held Pau Gasol to 16 points in two games.
Landry's play is a reminder that Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier will still be held accountable. He's proof that players can be effective even with uncertainty surrounding their franchise. We expect players to remain professional, even when their names surface in trade rumors or their contracts expire at the end of the season. Not being sure of the future of your franchise is something entirely different. It's even more extreme for the Hornets because, unlike the Dodgers, they could relocate, or even be contracted.
"Sometimes, it's kind of weird," Landry said. "It can be good in a way, because you're owned by the NBA."
I joked that could mean they'll get all the calls from the officials.
"You never know," Landry said. "It could be a bad thing in a way, too. New Orleans has become my home now. I've started to get settled in. And you just never know if the team is still going to be in New Orleans. You don't know. So right now, we don't really worry about that too much. We're just playing basketball.
For all the Dodgers' fans who are excited because they see the end of McCourt's ownership on the horizon, keep in mind the unknown is always a threat. Remember how fans couldn't wait for Fox to get rid of the team? At least the Fox folks didn't have to take out loans to meet payroll.
Landry said he knows new owners could also bring a new set of issues.
"They can change where we practice at; they can build a new arena," Landry said. "Anything could happen just because you're under new ownership. We're just glad the NBA is keeping the team in New Orleans right now and glad to be a part of the NBA."
Dodgers fans should be glad to see things working out for the Hornets. Maybe the boys in blue will be so fortunate.
J.A. Adande is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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